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Asheville, North Carolina‘s hidden gem nestled within the Appalachian Mountains, is surrounded by flora and fauna, making it an epicenter for outdoor activities and nature enthusiasts. Set against a magical backdrop of misty mountains and lush foliage, Asheville sets itself apart from other mountain towns with its charming, historic downtown – a thriving, cultural hub that plays host to live music, art galleries, museums, and theaters alongside epic farm-to-table restaurants, local produce, and craft breweries. For more on what to do and see, where to stay, and what to eat, read our guide to spending a weekend in Asheville, North Carolina.
Founded in 1797, Asheville has plenty of historic buildings to explore that bear witness to the history of this centuries-old city. Discover the Basilica of St. Lawrence (1905); the Thomas Wolfe Memorial, a historic site and museum from 1883; the Smith-McDowell House, the city’s oldest surviving mansion (1845); or the Carl Sandburg Home National Historic Site, the home of America’s famous poet and writer. Don’t miss the city’s most famous building, the Biltmore Estate – a Châteauesque-style mansion built 1889-1895 on an 8,000-acre estate; it is the largest home in the US with over 178,000 square feet of space and is a prime example of Gilded Age architecture. For those who want to learn more about the city’s historic past, walk the Urban Trail downtown.
Surrounded by beautiful mountains and trees, Asheville is the naturalist’s playground. Head to the Botanical Gardens, the North Carolina Arboretum, or the Western North Carolina Nature Center for a look at the city’s most beautiful plants and wildlife; hike along the Appalachian Trail or to the top of Mt. Mitchell, one of the area’s most famous peaks at 6,000 feet high; drive the Blue Ridge Parkway, America’s ‘favorite drive,’ for 469 miles of scenic views; visit Chimney Rock State Park; or camp in Pisgah National Forest. Other outdoor activities include cycling, bird-watching, golfing, fishing, zip lining, white water rafting, tubing, boating, stand-up paddle boarding, and waterfall-chasing. For those here during the fall, don’t miss the changing colors, a vibrant backdrop to the city.
Considered one of the best music cities in the US, Asheville is bursting with venues for live music: check out the iconic Grey Eagle, The Orange Peel, and The Thomas Wolfe Auditorium (now called the US Cellular Center), the oldest venue in the city; or check the website for a list of the city’s yearly festivals and events.
The River Arts District, an old warehouse neighborhood-turned-art studio district, is a must-visit for art enthusiasts. There’s also The Folk Art Center, Asheville Art Museum, or Grovewood Gallery and Diana Wortham Theatre, The Fine Arts Theatre, or The Altamont Theatre for performance art.
From luxury hotels to quaint inns, Asheville is filled with lodging for any taste. For less pricey stays, check out the Homewood Suites, the Holiday Inn, or the Hampton Inn; for middle-of-the-range prices, head to The Esmeralda Inn or Princess Anne Hotel; for a bit more, stay at the Renaissance Asheville Hotel, the Grand Bohemian Hotel, or The Residences at Biltmore. If you’re looking to spoil yourself, head to the Inn on Biltmore Estate, the Village Hotel on Biltmore Estate, or The Grove Inn Resort & Spa.
For a more authentic experience, a bed & breakfast is always recommended, like the 1889 WhiteGate Inn and Cottage, the 1899 Wright Inn and Carriage House, and the 1898 Waverly Inn; or opt for a cabin at Yonder Luxury Mountain Rentals or Asheville Cabins. There are also many campgrounds and RV parks located throughout the area with great amenities.
Asheville is known to have some of the best local and organic produce in the state, and the restaurants are no different – farm-to-table eateries line the streets of downtown, which makes picking a restaurant a real venture. Fan favorites include Cúrate for Spanish tapas, 12 Bones Smokehouse for BBQ fit for a king, Rhubarb for upscale, farm fresh cuisine, Chai Pani for authentic Indian street food, All Souls Pizza for wood-fired pizza, Nightbell for local Appalachian fare, or Local Provisions for Southern cuisine. For morning eats, there’s Hole, Biscuit Heads, Homegrown, brunch at Sovereign Remedies, OWL Bakery, and Trade and Lore Coffee.
As for libations, Asheville is reaping with craft breweries – must-visits include Fonta Flora Brewery, The Funkatorium, Burial Beer Co., Green Man Brewery, and Wedge Brewing Co. There’s also SkyBar for sweeping views of the city, and Lex 18 for a supper club-style feel. If you’re the ‘tour type,’ take a food tour, wine tour, foraging tour, Brews Cruise, or a pub cycle-crawl; for the food-focused visitors, be sure to check out local creameries along the WNC Cheese Trail and farm fresh produce at local farms and Asheville farmers markets. If this isn’t enough to keep you busy, shop at the many indie shops and boutiques, or get pampered at one of the many day spas.